Salutatorian Carina Robles embraces interdisciplinary opportunities as a transfer student

COMMENCEMENT: Graduating with a degree in political science and a minor in dance, Robles will be heading to Taiwan as part of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

May 08, 2023 Grayson Schmidt

Carina Robles was raised with the “fight on” spirit. Not only is her grandfather a Half Century Trojan, having graduated in the 1960s, but Robles — as someone born and raised in Southern California — knew from an early age how big of an impact USC has had on the Los Angeles area and beyond. She also knew that to accomplish her personal goals she had to pursue her passions. Only one school fit the bill.

Now, she’s graduating from her dream school as one of the salutatorians for the Class of 2023.

“The entire USC community is so high achieving that I’m just so humbled by this,” said Robles, a political science major at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and a dance minor at the USC Kaufman School of Dance.

In addition to her bachelor’s degree, as a progressive degree student, Robles will also graduate with a Master of Studies in Law, a business law certificate and a compliance law certificate from the USC Gould School of Law.

It’s one thing for your parents to tell you to be proud, but it’s another when the university recognizes you.

Carina Robles, USC salutatorian

“It’s one thing for your parents to tell you to be proud, but it’s another when the university recognizes you,” she said.

Raised in Pasadena, Robles came to USC as a spring transfer student in 2020 from the California Institute of the Arts. She was only on campus eight weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down campuses worldwide, but the first-year transfer student made those weeks count.

“I came into USC knowing it was a Trojan Family because of my grandfather, but I also knew whatever I was going to do on campus, what I put into it was what I was going to get out,” Robles said.

Robles immediately threw herself into activities around campus, including dance and film productions, as well as organizations such as USC Tommy’s Tours and the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy. The latter led her to the USC Election Cybersecurity Initiative workshop, a nonpartisan independent project supported by Google that helps protect campaigns and elections.

“That’s what really sparked my passion for political science,” Robles said. “For the first time, I saw policies — on paper and via Zoom — turn into action with our legislatures really talking about how they’re implementing cybersecurity.”

For USC salutatorian, true interdisciplinary experience

Performing arts — especially dance — were always a part of Robles’ life growing up. She knew she wanted to keep performing, but she didn’t want to give up her newfound love of political science. Many schools would have made her choose between the two, but at USC, Robles didn’t have to.

“USC has so many options,” Robles said. “There’s such an emphasis on the interdisciplinary aspect of the different colleges that inspires you to really try everything.”

She said USC Kaufman provided a well-rounded approach to the study of dance.

“USC Kaufman was a really good bridge between the technique and the cultural expression that comes with dance,” Robles said.

The dance minor also served as a nice contrast to her political science major. Robles said that the exercise and physical expression of dance was a refreshing break from the more traditional classroom setting of political science. Additionally, the self-expression and confidence she gained from dance translated to her work in the classroom.

“Dance helped me learn how to step out of my comfort zone,” Robles said. “When I came into poli-sci classes, I was more confident in myself: I felt like I could ask questions, not feel afraid and really be confident in what I knew and what I didn’t.”

A Fulbright, Taiwan and the path ahead for USC salutatorian

After commencement, Robles will continue stepping out of her comfort zone when she begins her Fulbright Program in Taiwan this August. As someone who studied Mandarin at USC, she’ll be teaching English and leading a dance program abroad.

I feel like all these portions of my life are really coming together with this Fulbright.

Carina Robles, USC salutatorian

“I feel like all these portions of my life are really coming together with this Fulbright,” she said.

Until then, Robles said she’s going to take a deep breath and reflect on her “amazing years” at USC.

“There’s so much hustle and bustle when you’re in it, that once I finally get to that commencement stage, they’ve read my name and handed me my diploma, I’ll need a moment to go, ‘Wow, what just happened?’” Robles said with a laugh.

Looking back to when she first set foot on campus as a new transfer student, Robles said she might not have been able to predict exactly what path she’d take, though knowing her own work ethic, she’d believe the outcome.

“I think my freshman self would’ve believed in me,” Robles said. “I’m not sure I knew exactly what I was going to do — though I knew I was going to do a lot — but I like to make sure that I do a lot of things to my best potential. Not only quantity, but the quality of it has to be good.”